Real World Windows Azure: Interview with Vishwas Lele, CTO at Applied Information Sciences

As part of the Real World Windows Azure interview series, I talked to Vishwas Lele, CTO at Applied Information Sciences (AIS) and Microsoft Regional Director, about their use of Windows Azure. Here’s what he had to say.

Himanshu Kumar Singh: Tell me about AIS.

Vishwas Lele: Since 1982, AIS (Applied Information Sciences, Inc.) has provided software and systems engineering services to enterprise companies and the U.S. government. AIS specializes in application development, business intelligence, portals and collaboration services and cloud computing services on the Microsoft platform.

HKS: And how have you been using Windows Azure over at AIS?

VL: Starting with ISVs (who were amongst the earliest adopters), to digital publishing houses, to a B2B commerce apps, to NGOs and federal agencies, we have helped a wide cross section of customers leverage Windows Azure.  A few of our key Windows Azure related projects are:

  • MetaStormCloud based modeling tool – We helped MetaStorm (an ISV) to migrate their on-premise modeling tool to Windows Azure. Details here.
  • Pandora Jewelry - We developed a B2B commerce system that supports dealer purchases and leverages Windows Azure Service Bus to integrate with Pandora’s on-premises ERP systems. Details here.’
  • Department of Treasury – We implemented a solution based on Windows Azure Service Bus that connects their public facing site with on-premise SharePoint infrastructure.
  • Bondi Digital Publishing – We utilized Windows Azure to develop a SaaS solution for online periodical distribution to traditional computing devices as well as tablet and mobile devices leveraging HTML5 touch and Silverlight technologies. The application was recently covered on CBS “Sunday Morning”. 
  • i2i Systems – We developed a healthcare reporting system that takes advantage of elastic compute capability offered by Windows Azure.
  • Population Services International (PSI) – We developed a solution to collect and consolidate financial information from a workforce that is distributed across the globe.  Windows Azure Storage and Windows Azure Service Bus capabilities were used to simplify the geo-distributed requirements of the solution.
  • Towers Watson – We are currently developing a High Performance Computing (HPC) solution that utilizes Windows Azure for the compute node infrastructure.  This solution is utilizing the HPC/Azure infrastructure to schedule large numbers of Excel compute jobs.

HKS: That is an impressive list. So having worked on a large number of solutions using Windows Azure, how would you summarize the benefits your customers, and you, have seen?

VL: Here are the key benefits that our customers have realized by moving to Windows Azure:

  1. Agility – Access to services such as Windows Azure HPC and SQL Azure is allowing our customers to reduce the time-to-market for new features and enhancements.
  2. Simplicity – By “outsourcing” a number of   moving parts including authentication, access control, caching, and reporting to Windows Azure based services, our customers have been able to simplify their overall application architecture.
  3. Growth – As Windows Azure has risen rapidly in terms of new capabilities and features, Azure hosted apps have risen with it. For instance, max size of SQL Azure databases, geo-replication for Windows Azure Storage, max number of communication endpoints etc.    
  4. Cost – The economy of scale of a multi-tenant infrastructure, combined with built-in monitoring of hardware and software health, considerably lowers the overall TCO of Windows Azure hosted apps.

While the above are great benefits to our customers, frankly to us as an SI, the biggest benefit of Windows Azure has been the freedom to focus on what we do best – “build great software” and leave the hosting, patching, monitoring etc. to Microsoft.

HKS: What are some trends that you have seen, and what are your expectations as you look forward to 2012? 

VL: Initially customers have looked to move their existing applications to Windows Azure. While such migrated applications may benefit from robust hosting capabilities of Windows Azure, they cannot take full advantage of the platform including scaling out individual tiers of the application, leveraging various platform services etc.

 As the benefits of PaaS are better understood by customers, we expect them to be more amenable to refactor their existing applications to take full advantage of Windows Azure. We are also encouraged to see new projects being architected to take advantage of the PaaS platforms.  

Achieving the ISO 27001 last month was a great step forward. As the Windows Azure platform achieves additional compliance certifications, we expect to reach a wider audience of potential companies wanting to take advantage of Windows Azure.